The Woolgatherer…putting skin in the game.

I don’t write about every play or film that I see. And of the ones I do write about, it’s more for the impact the work has had on me personally, rather than for any critiquing or reviewing of it. Recently, I went along to the Blue Moon Theatre Company production of the Irish Premier of ‘The Woolgatherer’ written by Emmy award-winning American playwright, William Mastrosimone.

Starring Sinead O’Riordan and Michel Hough, and directed by Dave Byrne, the play, set in Philadelphia, is a two-act, up-close and intimate portrayal of Rose and Cliff; the former being a fragile and highly sensitive candy-shop assistant, consumed and scarred by her history of mental health issues, and the latter,  a disappointed, long-distance trucker, with a cynical, wise-cracking edge that belies his empathic core.

Waiting for his truck to be fixed, Cliff just wants some fun and a bed for the night, preferably with Rose in it. That is, until he gets drawn in under the skin of this complex, highly strung, yet sweet and innocent young woman, and his earlier wants reveal a deeper need.

What struck me about the performances was the physicality and intensity of the actors as they absorbed the traits of Rose and Cliff. To the point of exhaustion, the audience were pulled into the lives of two wounded warriors, one pushing, one pulling, yet both being drawn in the same direction. Rose’s status quo could be summed up in the following lines, spoken in the midst of a heart-breaking monologue…and there was white feathers on the water. And the water was real still. And there was big swirls of blood. And the birds were real still. Their beaks alittle open. Legs broke. Toes curled. Still. Like the world stopped…

And from it, a sense of her trauma and neurosis, and the loneliness that engulfs her life, emerges.

Mastrosimone wrote of the play, that Rose dreamed of a prince of sorts, a kindred spirit who would one day walk into her life and liberate her from the imprisoning memory…a theme as old as time, and yet, in this instance, told with a refreshing, sometimes comedic and always riveting energy. Her prince does indeed appear, a hulking great specimen of humanity, and beyond the wisecracks and the cynicism, a pathos begins to ooze slowly from Cliff as Rose’s layers of fear and insecurities are slowly peeled away…

At its core, the Woolgatherer is a contemporary love story, told in a very unsentimental way, and dealing with the warts-and-all intricacies of two complex, everyday people, which is extremely satisfying. And if you listen carefully, beneath the lines and under the skin of these accomplished performances, you will go away with lots to think on, as I did.

The Woolgatherer runs in The New Theatre from 1st – 13th April. For more information go to www.thenewtheatre.com

Featured image is the copyright of Anita Kulon. 2013

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